NPB news: June 22, 2022

Roki Sasaki returned from 10 days of R and R, and looked all the better for it. Dietrich Enns delivered a solid start for the Seibu Lions, and Adam Walker had a game that has typified his season, one weak defensive play followed by a decisive home run for the Yomiuri Giants.

Akira Neo showed more flashes of good stuff on the mound, while the Hiroshima Carp continue to make the Hanshin Tigers roll over and play dead, and we have a new Pacific League leader.

Shall we get started?

Wednesday’s games

Marines 2, Lions 1: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Roki Sasaki (6-1) allowed three hits and three walks while striking out nine over seven innings. His command was as good as it’s been since his April perfect game as he consistently hit the glove, although his fastball was often flat, his splitter was very good.

“He’s gotten better and better since we face him before (April 3), when he wasn’t this good. Through the third inning we ran up his pitch count (to 50). The issue is trying to get to two balls against him when your gut tells you to swing early in the count to avoid falling behind, and then he throws that forkball at the perfect height that it looks like a strike before it drops out of the zone. That’s what’s amazing.”

–Seibu Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji

Dietrich Enns (4-4) allowed a run on three hits and two walks over six innings. Lotte took the lead in the fourth on a Shogo Nakamura walk, a Brandon Laird single and a Hisanori Yasuda double.

Tayron Guerrero worked a scoreless eighth for Lotte before Bo Takahashi, the Lions’ fourth pitcher allowed another run in the home half on an Akito Takabe leadoff double, a sacrifice and a Laird sac fly.

Naoya Masuda got two outs in the top of the ninth before things got dicey. A Tomoya Mori double, and a Takumi Kuriyama single made it a one-run game. A Janzen Witte single put runners on the corners before Masuda escaped with his 17th save.

Buffaloes 5, Hawks 0: At Osaka Dome, lefty Daiki Tajima (3-3) threw a four-hitter on 100 pitches, striking out seven and walking none, and Yutaro Sugimoto partied like it was 2021, blasting a three-run home run, his eighth, off Nao Higashihama (6-2) to open the scoring in the sixth.

The Hawks created a two-out opportunity in the first when Yuki Yanagita doubled, but he was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Alfredo Despaigne’s single. Tajima then retired 22 of the next 23 hitters before working around a one-out single in the ninth.

Eagles 6, Fighters 3: At Morioka, Hiroaki Shimauchi reached base three times, scored twice and belted a three-run ninth-inning sayonara home run, his fourth, as Rakuten walked-off into first place in the PL, a half-game ahead of SoftBank.

Go Matsumoto put the Fighters up 2-0 in the third with his third home run, off Takayuki Kishi, and singled in the tying run in the eighth off Tomohiro Anraku. Naoto Nishiguchi (2-0) worked a scoreless ninth for the hosts.

Rookie Fighters closer Koki Kitayama (3-5) allowed a pair of one-out singles. Kenya Suzuki retired Hideto Asamura before surrendering Shimauchi’s game-winning home run.

Giants 5, BayStars 4: At Tokyo Dome, Adam Walker broke a 4-4 tie by leading off the seventh inning with his 15th home run, off Hiromu Ise (1-1). Walker also doubled in the first and scored when the Giants took a 3-1 lead off BayStars starter Kenta Ishida.

Kazuma Okamoto capped the hosts’ first rally with a two-run home run, his 19th. Keita Sano who singled in a first-inning run off C.C. Mercedes when rookie Tatsuo Ebina exploited Walker’s arm in left, tied it 3-3 in the third with a solo homer, his seventh, only for Naoki Yoshikawa to put the Giants in front in the home half with his third homer.

The BayStars tied it after a pair of Mercedes walks in the fifth, and it then turned on five scoreless innings from the Giants pen and Walker’s home run. Walker is the Giants’ top offensive player as measured by Delta Graphs’ WAR.

“He’s an exciting dramatic player. OK, you can’t say his defense is great, but by the time August rolls around I think it will be improved. He’s working hard with coach Kamei (outfield fielding coach Yoshiyuki Kamei). I think his (Walker’s) special talent is being strict with himself.”

–Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara

Rookie Giants closer Taisei Ota retook the CL saves lead with his 22nd.

Giants-BayStars highlights

Swallows 7, Dragons 3: At Nagoya Dome, Yakult extinguished Chunichi’s two-run fifth-inning rally when Yuki Okabayashi made the final out at third base on Ariel Martinez’s game-tying sac fly to right, and Daiki Hamada broke the tie moments later, hitting his sixth home run after Jose Osuna singled off reliever Daisuke Sobue (2-3).

Yuhei Nakamura cleared the bases in the first inning with a three-run double, and doubled in two insurance runs in the seventh, for some serious “Mucho” production.

The Dragons’ highlight was a sparkling 1-2-3 eighth from novice pitcher and former shortstop Akira Neo.

Carp 5, Tigers 4, 11 innings: At Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Teruaki Sato gave Hanshin a 4-3 lead in the top of the inning by doubling in his third run of the game, only for Shogo Sakakura to tie it in the home half with his fifth homer, off Raul Alcantara (1-2), and Koki Ugusa to win it in the 11th with his first homer of the year.

The win moved the third-place Carp one full game ahead of the fourth-place Tigers, against whom they are 9-0 with one tie this season.

Hiroshima became the first team this month it seems to keep Yusuke Oyama from impacting a game, only for Takumu Nakano to score three runs and Sato to drive in three.

Thursday’s starting pitchers

Giants vs BayStars: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuji Akahoshi (3-3, 4.32) vs Katsuki Azuma (0-5, 6.75)

Dragons vs Swallows: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuichiro Okano (1-2, 11.57) vs Hirotoshi Takanashi (4-3, 3.10)

Carp vs Tigers: Hiroshima Citizen’s Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Drew Anderson (2-2, 5.17) vs Aaron Wilkerson (4-3, 3.06)

Active roster moves 6/22/2022

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/2

Central League


SwallowsP16Juri Hara
GiantsP42C.C. Mercedes

Pacific League


BuffaloesP29Daiki Tajima
MarinesP17Roki Sasaki
EaglesC65Kengo Horiuchi
EaglesOF54Ren Wada
HawksP16Nao Higashihama


BuffaloesP57Nobuyoshi Yamada
EaglesC26Ginjiro Sumitani
FightersP59Haruka Nemoto

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